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Educational Themes in China's Changing Culture


One of the striking contrasts between a Communist revolution and one of the “nationalist” variety lies in the differing attitudes held by the revolutionary elites towards the traditional culture. Nationalist leaders tend to come to power with a vague commitment to restore the values of the traditional society in a modern context; yet a good deal of their energy in the early years of nation-building is expended trying to relate cherished cultural doctrines to the often incompatible demands of modernisation.

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Why use stories from children's grammar school texts as an aid to understanding the complexities of cultural change? David McClelland, who has used readers as the basis for cross-cultural analysis of national “motive” patterns, suggests several reasons: The texts are relatively standardised cultural products, and thus facilitate cross-cultural comparisons, or, as in the present case, the analysis of change over time in a given culture. “The stories are ‘projective’ and tend to reflect the motives and values of the culture in the way they are told or in their themes or plots. [They] are also less subtle, more direct in their ‘message’ than many other forms of literature.” David C. McClelland , The Achieving Society (Princeton: Van Nostrand, 1961), p. 71. While we would not look to the readers for a detailed view of a culture, they do seem useful for revealing a distilled image of the values, motives and points of view which are perceived by the educational elite as being most important for training the younger generation. Their value lies more in the insights they may give into the mind and value-system of the contemporary social leadership than for predicting the future behaviour of the younger generation.

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The China Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0305-7410
  • EISSN: 1468-2648
  • URL: /core/journals/china-quarterly
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